Blindfold Greeting Card: Getting it wrong

Prior to creating Blindfold Greeting Card, I discussed the app with lots of visually impaired people, and they all thought it was a great idea.

greeting card

The app lets you send an audio e-card to someone else, via email, text message, Facebook, twitter, etc.  First you select one sound effect out of 500 audio clips, varying from 5 to 30 seconds long, and then you record yourself speaking a greeting.  The app combines both audio clips, and adds an 8 second promotion for Blindfold Greeting Card, and stores it at a website.

To send your e-card via text, just push the text message button, and enter your friend’s phone number, and off it goes.  When your friend gets the text message, she taps the weblink in the message, and hears your card.

It’s great for a blind person to send to a sighted person, so the sighted person can appreciate the card in the same medium that it was created it in.  It’s far better than sending an video e-card with a description that says “cute puppy under a tree”.  Likewise, sighted friends and relatives can send a card to a visually impaired person in a format that he can fully enjoy.

So here’s where I got it wrong.

  1. Most of the people who got this app used the pre-recorded sample messages instead of recording one themselves. I thought recording yourself would be great; I learned its a nice feature, but not a requirement.
  2. The app charges about 10 cents per card you send.  If you send the same card to 5 people, that’s about 50 cents.  What people did was create one card, send it to themselves for 10 cents, and then forward it to their friends at no additional cost.
  3. The audio e-card has the following message at the end of their audio clip: “Brought to you by Blindfold Games.  Visit us at blindfoldgames.org”.  People hated that promotional message.
  4. The price is $1.00 for 10 cards, $5 for 60 cards and $10 for 125 cards.  Almost all games have a price for unlimited usage, and people wanted an unlimited usage price for Blindfold Greeting Card.  I didn’t do this since there are costs associated with storing each audio card at a website.

I had a conversation with one of the fans of Blindfold Greeting Card, and he suggested I approach the app differently, and I’m working on those changes:

  1. Create an unlimited usage price.  Fortunately, the storage costs have gone done since the app was introduced last year, and that’s now economically feasible.
  2. Offer the ability to remove the promotional message as an purchasable upgrade.
  3. Have more prerecorded messages in addition to “Happy Birthday”.
  4. Let people be able to type in a message, and have the app speak it as part of the greeting.  This would be an alternative to recording your own voice.

We hope to get this new version out within a month.

Blindfold Boggling

Over the past few years, I’ve had a several requests for the word game Boggle and Scrabble.  It wasn’t clear to me how to do a good Scrabble game where you play against the computer, since the computer has access to a dictionary, and that seems like an unfair advantage.

4 by 4 board of letter cubes

Boggle, on the other hand, appeared more realistic, and there are many variants of Boggle so that a sightly different game could be created without violating the Boggle copyright.

Our version is called Blindfold Biggle.

If you are unfamiliar with Boggle, it’s a set of cubes arrange in a 4 by 4 pattern.  Each cube has 6 letters on it (one letter per side), and you spin all the cubes, so that you get a random pattern of letters.  From the letters, you must form words that are at least 3 letters long.  For example, a Boggle board could have the following letter combination:

M A V W

U S E A

F  I R L

E O S H

You can form a word by connecting adjacent letters, above, below, left, right, or diagonal, and you cannot use a letter cube twice in the same word.  For example, USE and SEA can be created on the second line, FUSE can be created from the first letter of the third line, and the first three letters of the second line, and SUM can be created by the 2nd and 1st letter of the second line, and the first letter of the first line, and SIR by the third letter of the fourth one, and the 2nd and 3rd letter of the third line.

The first step in building Boggle was to create an algorithm to determine all of the valid words.  I found several master’s thesis by people solving this problem; the easiest solution for a computer is to take all of the 3 letters words in its dictionary, and then attempt to find them in the puzzle, then take all of the 4 letter words, and so on.  It’s not how a person would solve the puzzle, but it does work, and on an iPhone, it can be done in under a second, using a dictionary of over 40,000 words.

We created a 4 by 4 variant of Boggle, with some changes from the original game, and called it Word Flick.  We did a 5 by 5 variant as well, a 6 by 6 variant, and a timed game for each of the variants.  To win the game, you try to get as many words as you can; the longer the word, the more points you score.

To download this game:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-word-biggle/id1182837304?mt=8

 

Blindfold Games March Update

I often get asked for a list of games that we’ve built.  Here’s the current list, from the newest to the oldest.

Click on the game to go directly to the iTunes download page.  All games are designed for rapid audio play and have been built with the help of dozens of visually impaired gamers

Blindfold Feud – Inspired by Family Feud.

Blindfold Road Trip– Be the first player to drive 1000 miles in this card game similar to 1000 miles or Miles Bornes.  Now with cars, sailboats and trains.

Blindfold Words From Words – How many words can you create from one word?

Blindfold Oppoly – Inspired by Monopoly.

Blindfold Euchre – Trick-taking card game, much easier than spades.

Blindfold Fireworks – Tap and swipe to conduct your own audio fireworks show.

Blindfold Seven Words – Similar to seven little words.

Blindfold Word Biggle – Inspired by Boggle – Find words in a 5 by 5 grid of letters.

Blindfold Trivia Match – Just like Jeopardy

Blindfold Snakes and Puzzles – Snakes and Ladders but with trivia or arithmetic puzzles

Blindfold Soccer Kick – Soccer – European Football – Kicking and Blocking.

Blindfold Cat and Mouse – Just like Skipbo.  A two player card game similar to  Solitaire, but much easier.

Blindfold Sound Search – More Sound Packs added.  Matching game using Common Animals, Asian Animals, National Anthems, Musical Instruments and Everyday Sounds.

Blindfold Color Crush – Many more gem packs added: A cross between Bejeweled and Candy Crush.

Blindfold Barnyard – New barnyards added: Move your animals from the barnyard to the fence to the barn.  It’s addicting!

Braille Spin and Solve – Practice your braille contractions. Inspired by Wheel of Fortune, spin to guess a letter or a contraction in the phrase and win.

Blindfold Greeting Card – Create and send your own audio cards to friends and family.

Blindfold RS Games – 21 different multi-player games, played by thousands of people on Windows and Mac, are now available on the iPhone and iPad.

Blindfold Sound Search – Matching game using Common Animals, Asian Animals, National Anthems, Musical Instruments and Everyday Sounds.

Blindfold Basketball – Grab the ball and start shooting.  Great sound effects!

Blindfold Bird Songs – Find that Bird and Match that bird – two great games for learning bird songs.

Blindfold Checkers – Play checkers with easy, medium or expert opponents.

Phrase Madness – Famous as a windows game, now on the iPhone and iPad.  Match the phrases and laugh your socks off.

Blindfold Pinball – Play pinball on diffferent pinball machines.

Blindfold Pool – Play pool by hitting your cue ball into the other balls, and landing them in the pockets.  Hours and hours of fun.

Blindfold Spin and Solve – Inspired by Wheel of Fortune, spin to guess a letter in the phrase and win.

Blindfold Shuffleboard  – Slide your discs into the scoring area, and push your opponents discs out of the way.

Blindfold Bingo – Play bingo with lots of patterns. Win coins. Record yourself saying Bingo and share it.

Blindfold Crazy Eights with Friends – Crazy Eights card game with with other people, via Game Center or in the same room.

Blindfold Word Games– Hangman, Word Ladder, Scramble and Word Flick.

Blindfold Horse Race– Race against other horses by walking your fingers on the screen.

Blindfold Juggle– Juggle animals on earth and other planets.

Blindfold Rummy – Gin Rummy card game – collect sets and runs of cards.

Blindfold Tile Puzzle – Tile games including 2048 and Threes, with several variations.

Blindfold Vee Ball – Just like Skee ball: Roll a ball up a ramp to land in the highest point hole.

Blindfold Craps – Dice game where you bet on the outcome of a dice roll, just like in Las Vegas.

Blindfold Air Hockey – Air Hockey – use your mallet to shoot the puck into your opponent’s goal.

Blindfold Breakout – Breakout game where you smash bricks with a ball, similar to the arcade game.

Blindfold Bowling – Ten pin bowling just like at the bowling alley.

Blindfold Roulette – Play roulette just like in Las Vegas.

Blindfold Hopper – Inspired by the old video game frogger.

Blindfold Pong – Pong game similar to the classic arcade game.

Blindfold Dominoes -Dominoes game where you play until you are out of tiles or blocked.

Blindfold Hearts – Hearts card game where you avoid collecting hearts or you can shoot the moon.

Blindfold Simon – My Simon type game where you follow patterns based on gestures and sounds.

Blindfold Spades – Spades card game where you bid and collect tricks as you win each hand.

Blindfold War – The classic war card game where you try to collect all the cards.

Blindfold Solitaire – Solitaire card games including Klondike, Spider, Free Cell, Golf and many others.

Blindfold Wildcard – An Uno type card game.

Blindfold Crazy Eights – Crazy Eights card game with several variants of play.

Blindfold Video Poker – Video Poker just like the machines in Las Vegas.

Blindfold Blackjack – Play Blackjack against the dealer.

Blindfold Sudoku – Audio Sudoku in a 9 by 9 grid, with easy, medium and hard levels.

Blindfold Sudoku Mini – Audio Sudoku in a 4 by 4 grid, lots of fun and great for people who never played Sudoku before.

Blindfold Cryptogram – Decode famous quotes and phrases in a letter substitution game

Blindfold Racer – Drive your car using your ears, not your eyes.  The original game that started all of this.

Blindfold Snakes and Puzzles

If you have ever played Chutes and Ladders, also called Snakes and Ladders, you’ll quickly find its a boring and very repetitive game.

snakes-and-ladders board

Despite this, I was getting about one request a week to create this game.  Over two years, that’s over 100 people – adults and children – asking for it.

Snakes and Ladders is played on a grid, laid out in 10 rows of 10 columns, numbered from 1 to 100.  You roll one die, and move up the number of squares that you roll.  Connecting some of the squares are ladders, which move you up faster; for example, the square with the number 7 is connected to the number 42 square.  When you land in square 76, you are moved to square 42.  Similarly, there are snakes or chutes which drop you back.  If you land in square 87, you are sent back to square 24

The winner is the first player to land in square 100.The game is entirely based on luck, so unless you are a young child, it’s not very exciting.

For adults, we made the game more playable by making it a trivia game.  After you roll the die, you must answer a trivia question correctly.  If you are wrong, you skip your turn.

For children, we turned the game into an arithmetic game.  After you roll the die, you have to solve an addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problem, such as 63 divided by 7.  If you get the correct answer, you move as normal; otherwise, you skip your turn.

Teachers are now starting to use this game as a way to practice 1 and 2 digit arithmetic problems, and students love playing the game.

You can download Blindfold Snakes and Puzzles here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-snakes-and-puzzles/id1161380873?mt=8

March Madness & Blindfold Basketball

Tim Schwartz authors the blog and podcast  Life After Blindness, which strives to be a great resource for the blind and visually impaired and their sighted friends and family. They do this through the sharing of news, walkthroughs, reviews and personal stories.

You can follow the blog here: http://lifeafterblindness.com or subscribe to the podcast: itpc://lifeafterblindness.com/feed/podcast/

Tim’s latest blog talks about all things basketball and specifically the NCAA men’s basketball tournament also known as March Madness, then Tim presents a quick tutorial and review of Blindfold Basketball.

You can listen to the Blindfold Basketball section here:

 

To download Blindfold Basketball, tap here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-basketball/id1118710103?mt=8

Blindfold Soccer Kick

After I finished Blindfold Basketball, people asked me to more sports games.  I thought of creating a game that would include several mini-games, such as football, baseball and soccer.  Of course, once I started on building it, I quickly discovered just how complex any of these games are.

icon-1024

So instead, I started designing a soccer kicking game.  The idea of the game is that you and your computer opponent must kick the ball to into the goal net.  When it’s your turn, you try to kick the ball into the net, and your opponent’s goalie tries to block your ball.  When it’s your opponent’s turn, he tries to kick the ball into the net, and you, as the goalie, try to block his ball.

The challenging part of building a game like this is teaching you how to play.  Level by level, the game leads you through acquiring both kicking and blocking skills.

You start the game learning how to kick the ball.  The soccer goal net is 50% of the width of the screen, and is either on the left side, the right side or the center.  Before each shot, you are told where the goal net is, and during the shot,  you hear a slow drum sound indicating where goal net is: left, center or right.

For example, if the goal net is on the left side, position your finger near the bottom of the phone, on the left side, and swipe up.  The announcer will tell you when you scored a goal, or if you missed the goal net.

Next, you learn how to kick to avoid the opponent’s goalie who tries to block your shot by moving left and right; the goalie is about one quarter of the width of the screen.  He  moves from left to right in about five seconds, and then reverses his movement when he hits the side.

 

Once you’ve mastered kicking, you can play a solo game with a goalie. It’s just like the practice game, but on each level, the goalie moves faster and faster.  Each level has 7 soccer balls and there are 10 levels, and to make the game more challenging, you can change the size of the net that you are aiming for.

The next skill to acquire is blocking your opponent’s kick.  Your opponent will kick the ball towards the goal, and you must block it.  After he kicks the ball, by moving your finger  left and right, you try to keep the sound of oncoming ball in the center of your head.  Then you play the blocking game at faster and faster speeds.

With both kicking and blocking mastered, you are ready for a full game: you and your opponent alternate shots.  First you kick the soccer ball into his goal net while his goalie tries to block your ball.  Then he kicks the soccer ball into your goal net, and while you try to block his ball.  There are 10 levels, and the winner is the player with the most completed goals.

You can download Blindfold Soccer Kick here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-soccer-kick/id1155641360?mt=8

 

 

CSUN and iPhones

I had an opportunity to attend the 32nd CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in San Diego, and met some great people from American Printing House for the Blind, National Braille Press, the California Department of Rehabilitation Blind Field Services unit and others.  We are all looking for ways to get the games into more people’s hands, so they can enjoy the games and benefit from the orientation and concentration skills that they foster.

2 inch circular blindfold games sticker

I also met with Mike and Kevin of RS Games, and we talked for several hours over drinks and dinner.  They are great guys and really dedicated to making their games better, and making them even more popular.

I learned that within the USA, iPhones are still the preferred device, used by about 90% of visually impaired people who own mobile phones.  That’s the primary reason why we haven’t moved the games to Android yet.

We handed out a small flyer to the attendees that described the games – we had brochures printed in both large print and braille – and also gave people a two inch Blindfold Games sticker to put on their show badge if they wanted.  By the second day of the show, about one third of all attendees learned about Blindfold Games, and were displaying our sticker.

Over the next few months, we’ll be attending conferences in Massachusetts, Iowa, Florida and California.  If you know of any other conferences that draw a lot of people – either people who are visually impaired, or people who serve the community, such as TVIs, please contact me.

Blindfold Bowling: iOS Spatial Concepts

Diane Brauner from Perkins Path To Technologies blog just published this article about how Blindfold Bowling is used.

logo-1024

Spatial concepts are challenging – and critical – for students who are blind.  They are challenging, as most sighted students glean spatial information by simply glancing at a room, a map, a math diagram, or other item.  Spatial concepts are critical for blind students – a blind student needs to know where things are located and how these things are located in relationship to each other in order to efficiently navigate around his classroom, his school, his local community and beyond.  Consider a kindergarten student’s classroom and the spatial relationships between various areas in his classroom.  Example:  The kindergarten student should be able to identify the location of various areas and travel the routes to/from these areas, such as the route from his desk to the Circle Area, the route from the Circle Area to Centers, and the route from the Circle Area to the hallway door.  Using spatial concepts, blind students should create mental maps of the classroom.

Are there fun ways to encourage students to develop spatial concepts and mental maps?  Absolutely!  Let’s take a look at how bowling can help a student develop spatial awareness.

Game Layout

Diagram of a bowling pins layout with 10 black circles representing the pins and a red circle representing the bowling ball approaching the pins.

The pins are set up in a triangle, with one pin in the front row, two pins in the next row back, three pins in the third row back and four pins in the back row.  Each pin is numbered from left to right, starting with the front row.  The front row has pin 1, the next row has pins 2 and 3, the third row has pins 4, 5 and 6, and the back row has pins 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Teacher Hint:  Best practice is to give the “big picture first” and then the details.  First discuss the triangle shape before learning the numbers of the 10 pens.  This is also an O&M skill, as students should first learn the big picture such as the shape of the room or direction of the goal (as the-crow-flies). When teaching a graph, best practice is to know what the Y and X axis represent and then quickly explore the trend of the graph before learning individual data points.

Tactile Game

When initially teaching this game to students who are visually impaired, create a tactile representation of how the bowling pins are arranged.  One simple way is to laminate an index card and create a place-holder by brailling a dot where each pin should be.  (Leave extra space around the braille dots.  I used a slate and stylus to create my braille dots.)  Then, place sticky-backed foam circles on top of each braille dot to represent the bowling pins.  Use thin masking tape (or Rainbow tape) to create the “gutters” and bowling alley.  Be sure to teach the bowling terms!  When you bowl and knock over pins, remove the foam circles from the index card.  The student can feel the braille dots to better understand which pins were removed.  The remaining foam circles will indicate which pins are still standing.  Students can remove and replace the tactile “pins” to show mastery of the concept.  Another option is to use a pegboard and pegs.  I would recommend tactually covering the additional peg holes so that the student is not distracted by extra holes.  (Take cardboard and cut out the diamond shape that corresponds with the 10 holes needed.  Be sure to tape down the cardboard so that it does not move.) Do not forget to tactually mark the “gutter” and “bowling alley”!

Physical Bowling

Remember, the goal is to teach spatial concepts using a bowling game. All students will enjoy the physical game of bowling; for younger students who are visually impaired, building the concepts is an important part of this activity.  In school, create your own physical bowling game.  Check with your gym teacher and physical therapists to see if they have bowling pins and ball that you can borrow.  If not, make your own with 2 Liter soda bottles and a ball.  Depending on the type of ball you use (and the strength of your students!) you will probably need to put sand, gravel or even water in the bottom of the soda bottles in order to keep them upright unless they are directly hit.  (Make sure the lids are on tight!)  I’d suggest having a student or adult behind the pins to catch the ball.

If possible, after playing physical bowling at school, try to set up an opportunity for the class to go bowling either as a school field trip or possibly a PTA -sponsored family.  If not, encourage parents to take their childon a family bowling trip.

Blindfold Bowling: iOS game

Blindfold Bowling is a free iOS app that is designed for players who are visually impaired. This game further reinforces the spatial concepts associated with bowling, as students must have a mental map of the pins to strategically play the game.  This is an auditory only game – no tactile feedback.  (You can choose to turn the Screen Curtain on to make the iOS screen go black, eliminating the visual picture of the pins.)  The student should now have a good concept of the pin layouts and how he/she needs to move in order to knock down the remaining pins.  To check your student’s mastery of the spatial concepts, have him listen to the Blindfold Bowling to learn which pins were knocked over; the student can use your tactile version of the game to re-create which pins are left.  He can then strategize where he should “stand” (left side or right side, 1 – 5) and why, in order to knock over the remaining pins.

Blindfold Bowling is completely accessible with VoiceOver.  Blindfold Bowling has many options and variables.  To start, play the Simple Throw game:

Position yourself on the bowling alley by touching your index finger to the screen, moving the finger left and right.  When you flick or lift your finger, the ball travels straight down the alley without curving left or right.  To help you figure out where you are standing, you will hear the numbers from 1 – 5, with 5 as the edge and 1 is close to the center.  The left side is a man’s voice and the right side is a woman’s voice.

To make the game more challenging, play the One Finger Aim and Throw game and the Two Finger Aim and Throw game, choose to change the ball size, play against another player or computer, and other options.  For instructions, go to Blindfold Bowling User Guide.

Teacher Hint:  Good orientation skills (O&M) and higher math skills go hand-in-hand, as they both require good spatial concepts and mental mapping!

Watch the video below demonstrating the Blindfold Bowling game being playing on an iPhone.

Blindfold Games Survey

Last week, I asked many of the Blindfold Games fans to fill out a survey on which game to create next, and I received hundreds of responses.

checkmark

You can add your response to the survey here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/396TKCY

Before I reveal what was requested, I have a few comments:

  1. All games run on iPad as well as iPhone.  If you don’t find the game you are looking for on the iPad, make sure you de-select the iPad only button when using the App Store on your iPad.
  2. I already created a bunch of games that were requested, including:
  • Uno, called Blindfold Wildcard.
  • Skip-Bo, called Blindfold Cat and Mouse Solitaire.
  • Jeopardy, called  Blindfold Trivia Match
  • Frogger, called  Blindfold Hopper
  • Memory game, called Blindfold Sound Search
  • Hangman, one of 4 games in Blindfold Word Game
  • Code cracker game, called Blindfold Cryptogram
  • Apples to Apples is included in Blindfold RS Games
  • Battleship is included in Blindfold RS Games
  • Boggle, called Word Biggle
  • Blindfold Checkers
  • Blindfold BasketBall,
  • Blindfold Soccer
  • Blindfold Rummy
  • Blindfold Pool
  • Blindfold Breakout

I probably won’t create the following games:

  • Chess, since several chess apps are already accessible.
  • Bridge card game, since several bridge apps are already accessible

Here are the most requested games for each category:

  • Puzzles: Mazes, Number Tile Slide Puzzle, Piano Tiles, Connect-Four
  • Word Games: Scrabble, Crossword Puzzles, Word Search
  • Board Games: Life, Sorry, Clue
  • TV Games: Deal or no deal, Millionaire, Price is Right, Lets make a deal
  • Action Games: Pacmac, Super Mario, Bopit, Whac-a-mole
  • Casino Games: Slots
  • Card Games: Cribbage
  • Sports Games: Football, Baseball, Swimming, Golf
  • Other: Fighting games where you battle an opponent and kill them, pet nurturing game

 

Guest blog: Preparing your home for a blind relative

From time to time, I get requests from Blindfold Games fans to publish their articles.  Jackie Waters sent the following to me:

The term “nesting” is in reference mostly to pregnant women who have an instinct to prepare their home for the arrival of their little bundle, but I recently experienced the feeling when my husband’s sister, who is visually impaired, came to live with us.

Certainly, I wanted our home to be as comfortable and welcoming for her as possible, but more than anything, I wanted it to be safe. With a little research and some help from kind neighbors, my husband and I were able to make some low-cost modifications so that she could truly enjoy her new home.

Below are some suggestions on home repairs, for anyone who’ll be opening their home to a person with a disability. These are also great changes to make now if you have future plans for your home–for example, maybe you’d like to pass it on to a family member with a disability.

Bathroom

Having an accessible bathroom is one of the most essential elements to have in your home. In the shower and next to the toilet, install grab bars for reinforcement and extra support. It’s also a good idea to keep toiletries, towels, extra toilet paper, etc., in the same place. We set up a special shelf and shower caddy of toiletries for my sister-in-law to use. I also purchased slip-resistant bath mats that had a greater color contrast with the bathroom tile than our previous mats did.

If your loved one is wheelchair-bound, the doorway (and all doorways for that matter) should be at least 32 inches to allow for an unobstructed route for wheelchairs. The bathroom should accommodate the 5-foot turning radius for wheelchairs, and the layout should be as open as possible. A sloped tile floor leading to a showerhead and drain is ideal to provide easy-access.

An area that can easily be overlooked is the sink. Remove anything that impedes a wheelchair from rolling under it, and be sure to have a clearance of 27 inches, but be mindful to keep the height of the top of the sink between 32 and 34 inches. Little changes like moving the position of the faucets to the side of the sink, lowering the mirror, or mounting a motion-detecting faucet instead of having handles make a big difference.

Entryway

The exterior to your home needs to be just as accessible as the interior. Clear the path leading to your main entrance to prevent tripping and injuries. Repair any loose railings or paving stones. Adding a ramp instead of having stairs is essential for making your home available to anyone.

Easy Adjustments

Think of the simple comforts that can make or break your day on a regular basis. For example, what if you were freezing cold and couldn’t adjust the thermostat? To solve that problem for his sister, my husband installed a thermostat designed for people with visual impairments. We also installed motion sensitive lights and switched to easier-to-grasp door and cabinet handles.

Financial Assistance

There are multiple programs available to aid people with disabilities and their families to finance renovations on their homes. Here are a few resources that are more than willing to help:

  • Need Help Paying Bills: Loan or grant program for low to middle income families for home improvements
  • disability.gov: Offers several resources for aid in home improvements and support services